Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Good Times, July Edition ...


The July cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Parmesan Toffee Cookies. "Wait a minute," you may be saying. "You put Parmesan cheese in a cookie?" Why, yes I did.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chewy Sugar Cookies ...


I like sugar. I like cookies. But sugar cookies have never been my go-to sweet. Given the choice between a sugar cookie and an oatmeal cookie, for instance, I will shove people into the street to get to the oatmeal cookie.

A sugar cookie is one of those baked goods that is so basic, it seems foolproof, right? Au contraire. And I should know. I tried this recipe and ended up with cookies that looked like Today sponges, disturbingly so.

And I tried this recipe and while I was happy to have ended up with cookies that did not look like a form of contraception, I wasn't much inspired to eat them. They were just, you know, flat. (Though Dorie Greenspan is such a baking goddess, she may have intended them to look entirely different. I may have done something wrong.)

But yesterday was National Sugar Cookie Day, so I was moved to try the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Chewy Sugar Cookies. I was rarin' to bake, until I read the recipe and realized that I needed ... cream cheese. Yep, cream cheese for a sugar cookie. So I made a plan to go to the store. But as long as I was going to leave the house, I figured I may as well make a master list of errands and knock 'em all out, which is what I did, which I why I didn't get around to baking the Chewy Sugar Cookies until today.

And I am happy to report that this is a sugar cookie, the epitome of a sugar cookie. Crackly on top, barely crispy at the edge, and chewy in the center as promised by the name.

Chewy Sugar Cookies
(From Cook's Illustrated, November & December 2010)

NOTE: The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough. For the best results, handle the dough as briefly and gently as possible when shaping the cookies. Overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces * ) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter **, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large *** rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogenous dough forms.

3. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop). Using hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.

4. Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

BETH NOTES:

* It really behooves you to weigh ingredients when they're specified by weight. Baking is a precise art, and depending on how you measure flour, for instance, you may end up with more volume or less than called for by the recipe. A digital scale is a good investment for your kitchen if you like to bake. They're not expensive.

** I used salted butter then halved the amount of table salt to 1/4 teaspoon.

*** These cookies spread quite a bit. A half-sheet pan would be ideal on which to bake a dozen. But if you have smaller baking sheets, I'd bake four batches of six cookies each, unless you don't mind your cookies baking into each other.

**** I suggest using less sugar for the final sprinkling step. These end up quite sweet with all that additional sugar.